The annual Bay Ridge Storefront Art Walk, acronymically known as Bay Ridge SAW, not only invites artists to propose very particular sorts of public art projects, but also manages to provide funds to help them realize their often installation-tending works, which they ultimately conceive in accordance with the settings of the small businesses with which they’re partnered.
Now in its seventh iteration, SAW has matured in significant ways from one year to the next, and local businesses and Bay Ridge residents have increasingly embraced and supported the project. One thing that hasn’t changed, though, is that SAW always kicks off with an afternoon reception for the artists and tour of the participating spaces.
This year, though, that party will be even bigger, and that tour will be even more robustly planned and promoted, because this season’s launch event—slated for Saturday, May 14th—is being produced in tandem with Norte Maar for Collaborative Projects in the Arts, an important, consistently expanding force among Brooklyn cultural institutions.
I ran a couple questions by John Avelluto, one of SAW’s founders and directors, and Jason Andrew, Director of Norte Maar, to gather some key details about this year’s featured artists and businesses, about the forthcoming kickoff event, and about each fellow’s creative agenda for the summer.
You and the other SAW organizers were recently recognized for all your hard work with a nice award. Share that news here too, please!
Yes! This year we expanded the board and incorporated many local artists and art advocates into the organization. With this help, we were able to secure a Community Arts Grant from the Brooklyn Arts Council. As our organization is volunteer, this grant will help us pay participating artists, provide traffic to our local businesses, and provide the public with a unique art exhibit.
What was the SAW selection process like this year? More applications than ever, perhaps? For those who might apply next year, what should they keep in mind for a winning proposal?
This year’s cycle was great in a number of ways. Our panel of jurors (Alonsa Guevara, co-owner of Bay Ridge Art Space, James Raczkowski, co-owner of Bay Ridge Art Space, Jeannine Bardo, founder of the Stand Project and a 2015 SAW artist, Mollie Flanagan, Program Manager/Curator of The NARS Foundation, Alicia Debrincat, founding Editor of ArtFile Magazine, and John Ros, founder of galleryEll) had their work cut out for them as this year saw close to a 60% increase in applicants, but they responded with great selections.
What future applicants should think about when applying is the commitment of the SAW to include the Bay Ridge community in the project itself. We ask that the installations be specific to the sites that are negotiated for them. The process of selecting a storefront to create a work is indeed part of the project itself, where an artist explores the 5th Ave corridor between 68th St. and 84th St. to select possible sites to work. Aesthetic and conceptual factors, as well as pragmatic technical concerns, lead to artists’ decisions to work with certain stores. Then there are talks with the store owners to see whether they are interested in working with the artists. When I say ‘working with the artists,’ I really mean just that: the artists and store owners exchange ideas about the feasibility of the project, as the storefront is usually a space in which the store owner communicates visually with the community—a community which receives only $.31 per person of art redistribution capital, whereas the median for Brooklyn is $3.81. It is with this agency and a desire for collaboration artists should exemplify with their application.
You have 15 artists partnered with 15 businesses. All kinds of media, various sorts of settings. Care to highlight a few? What will you have on view at your wine bar, Owl’s Head?
What is also unique about the SAW is how the projects come to fruition. After the artists settle on a site, the project then becomes studio work which culminates during installation week (which is happening as I type this, coincidentally). So I haven’t seen a full installation yet, but I am very eager to see how things are going.
As for Owl’s Head, this year I am excited to be working with Sophia Chizuco. She will be creating a light installation with eggshell chandeliers in the front windows and throughout the space. The eggshells she employs will be a stark contrast to the hard, unyielding materials used in the space (i.e brick and mortar), but will add to the rich textures found at the bar to create space. Eggs are amongst the most common foods in the world, and are particularly poignant when considering the bar.
You’re also an artist, œnologist, culinary wizard, et cetera. What’s on your summer agenda?
Ha! Yes, I do all those things. The culinary (particularly the conversation between agriculture and the dinner table) and hospitality world has been a part of my life forever. This inevitably, and I’m sure in some ways imperceptibly, shows up in my primary mode of thought with the arts. I have been producing new bodies of work in the studio, and after the SAW, I’m looking forward to hunkering down and pushing the ideas I’ve been working with further for a show with Studio 10 at the end of the year.
You’ve been leading Norte Maar in many new directions in the past year, mostly as a result of a decision to spread your organizational support for the arts as much as possible around Brooklyn. What led to you partnering with SAW this year?
Norte Maar has always been about the artists, and the initiative behind so many of our programs is granting access to these artists whether it be through organizing art exhibitions, promoting alternative spaces, hosting poetry readings, or producing new work by choreographers. Bay Ridge has been brewing as one of the art communities we wanted to explore. SAW is seven years in the making, and so we are leading the trek to Bay Ridge with a new edition of Beat Nite… Lite.
LITE? Diurnal, family-friendlier? Give us some details.
Beat Nite has been historically linked to a late night scene in Bushwick. As we grew the community there, and as the art-going public became more and more comfortable navigating the basement apartment galleries and artist-run spaces, we began taking Beat Nite on the road: Gowanus, Downtown Brooklyn. With the opening of the 7th Annual SAW, we decided it was time to bring the Beat Nite to Bay Ridge—but during the day, hence ‘Lite.’ Our Beat Nite is famous for its Beat Nite Bus, so we have organized a bus leaving Bushwick and heading to Bay Ridge, where we’ll enjoy a brunch and guided tour of SAW. To book your spot on the Beat Nite Bus to Bay Ridge, visit www.nortemaar.org.
Norte Maar fires all cylinders all year, pretty much, but I know you have some new particularly highlightable projects slated for this summer. And they are?
Yeah! We are firing all cylinders for sure! We are doing our best to keep up with the pace set by our creative community, and summer is always packed. This June we’ll launch the opening of the first gallery in Cypress Hills, Brooklyn. Then we’ll move our programing to the Jay House in upstate New York, where this July we’ll host our 3rd Annual Jay Invitational of Clay, which features cutting edge of works in clay by artist of the region. We will also present our 2nd Annual Au Sable River Valley Studio Tour (July 16 + 17) with a pop-up gallery on Main Street in Au Sable Forks. Then in August we’ll return to the city to produce our 4th Annual Dance at Socrates program, presented in collaboration with Socrates Sculpture Park (who is celebrating their 30 Year Anniversary!). Details on all our programs can be found on our website, www.nortemaar.org
Jason or John will be Borough President one day, if we’re lucky—or if we’re really lucky, both will be, one right after the other—so you might want to tap into their networks now by following them on social media. You can follow John, SAW and Owl’s Head on Facebook (John, SAW, Owl’s Head) and Instagram (John, SAW, Owl’s Head), and you can follow Jason on Instagram and Twitter. Norte Maar is on both too: Instagram, Twitter.
* Image at top: Sophia Chizuco’s installation at Owl’s Head. Image courtesy the artist and Bay Ridge SAW. / Poster image for Beat Nite LITE courtesy Norte Maar. / Image at bottom: Anujan Ezhikohde’s installation at Verrazano Bicycle Shop. Image courtesy the artist and Bay Ridge SAW.